I can understand why President Duterte lashed out, after all we are supposedly defense treaty partners. Acquiring weapons and systems from the U.S. should be the most normal thing to do. We need it to build credible deterrence and for law enforcement. Except that it has been most abnormal for the most part of the treaty’s history. Wrong items, poor quality, obsolescence and limited supply.
There are many reasons for that and the blame falls on both sides of the aisle. For the most part, America’s problem with us lies in its trust and confidence in our capability to professionally handle weapons and systems (i.e., not to be used for coup attempts, for destabilizing countries; no sustainable budget for repairs and maintenance; poor training regimens, etc).
Is it warranted? Well, examine history and place yourself in the shoes of the giver, and you’ll find that there’s room to agree. But is it fair to leave us high and dry in the face of growing external threats in an ever-growing dangerous world? What is the treaty for? What is the partnership for? It’s still one-sided.
Duterte is new on the scene and in the infancy of his presidency, he’s felt America’s insensitivity – being taken for granted, lectured to and looked down on. Instead of helping out to deal with the problems he inherited from their fair-haired boy who did nothing much except allow the country’s problems to fester, they’re putting pressure on him to exert command and control.
A person like Duterte, who wants to fix things and place other things in its proper places, has a fierce loyalty to his oath of office and to the people who elected him. He takes seriously his role as father of the nation and as the sovereign head of an independent country. He inherited monumental national security problems needing a “whole of nation” approach.
He needs help from the bureaucracy, the citizenry, friendly countries and, most of all, treaty partners. But nothing doing. The latter’s agenda has come across as self-serving. It seems that despite our weakness in the defense chain, it wants us weak enough to do its bidding. It may have been alright for past presidents, but for Duterte who wants to firm up the nation’s backbone and self-respect, he’ll stand up to its cavalier behavior we’re all tired of.
Actually, PH-US relations have improved somewhat since 1991 after the departure of its bases, but its myopia and insensitivity continues to be felt. Here, I would dichotomize the situation: if I were to choose who to trust for prescience and swift reliable action, between America’s military and its politicians, I’d choose the former. They’ve proven it time and again.
Unfortunately, the military takes its orders from its political leaders, like here, and that’s where the trouble is, from 10,000 miles away. They’re in their own world, busy fighting each other and making lots of money (legal of course).
Written by: Rafael Alunan III